Seeking Whole-heartedly

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:10-13

The Lord’s people had turned against him, rejecting his laws and seeking false gods and the fleeting pleasure of sin. And so he judged them, as he had promised.

In the midst of judgment, he reminded them of his promise of mercy. His people had broken faith, but the Lord would not. Their exile had a limit. The Lord was not finished in his plans for them. His plans were still for their good and their hope.

He promised restoration of heart. The people who once rejected him in their hearts would turn back to him. And He would not hide himself. They would seek and find, they would call and He would answer.

Just as He spoke to His beloved then, so He speaks to them now. So I have to ask myself, as His beloved, what are the promises He has revealed in His Word? What faithfulness is mine in Him? Having come to Him for salvation, do I believe He delights to grant it? Even in dire circumstances, do I trust that his plans for me are good and full of hope? Do I seek after him wholeheartedly in Bible-reading, prayer, and obedience?

…..

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Acts 2:38-39

…..

“And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” 1 John 2:25

…..

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Galatians 3:29

…..

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13

…..

“Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!”

Psalms 119:116

Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.

Prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Sunday Song: Peace and Rest

One of the biggest mercies in a believer’s life is that whatever trial or question arises, the answer is always Christ and his invitation to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” By yoking with him, we find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11)

Peace, Perfect Peace by Edward H. Bickersteth, Jr. 1875

  1. Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
    The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

  2. Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
    To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

  3. Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
    On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

  4. Peace, perfect peace, ’mid suffering’s sharpest throes?
    The sympathy of Jesus breathes repose.

  5. Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
    In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

  6. Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
    Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

  7. Peace, perfect peace, death shad’wing us and ours?
    Jesus has vanquished death and all its pow’rs.

  8. It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
    And Jesus calls us to Heav’n’s perfect peace.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

He Ordained Peace

 

 

O LORD, you will ordain peace for us; you have done for us all our works. Isaiah 26:12

Peace.

I doubt whether there is anything so sought after or valued in this world. Peacemakers are commended, both in Scripture and by society.

Why, then, is there not peace? War and conflict spread overwhelmingly and unceasingly around the world, which begs the question, “Is complete peace possible?”

And yet, God promised peace in Isaiah. Even more than that, the Sovereign Lord decreed, commanded, ordained that it should be so. Peace for us.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

Around 700 years after Isaiah told of God’s promised peace, angels descended on the hills of Bethlehem to declare that peace had come to those of God’s favor.  What peace was this? This peace was Jesus, the Christ, who did our works for us. The Messiah who was our righteousness, became our sin, took our judgment, and delivered us from death.

And he ordained for us peace. Peace with God the Father through forgiveness. Peace because Christ has overcome this world — including sin and death. Peace that guards our hearts and minds. He is the Prince of Peace. Since it is his sovereignty that has ordained peace, peace must, therefore, be ours.

That must also mean, then, that wars and sin struggles are not the end. Senseless violence will not endure.

God has ordained peace.  By His Spirit we have peace with our God that our hearts can feel even in this war-torn world. By His perfect peace and strength may we persevere as peacemakers even as we await the fulfillment of time when the people at peace with God will live in a world of peace.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4